UK Councils Social Media Reputation Index for March 2012
- The top 20 UK councils for new online buzz
- Spotlights stories:
- Twitter hits MJ Headlines
- Investment Under Scrutiny
- New Cities announced
- Boris Learns a Lesson in Social Media
- Buzz and Media Mix – News v Blogs v Twitter etc
- Council Service Buzz
The Top 20
These are the councils that have seen the biggest increases in the volume of online buzz they are attracting. The biggest movers (subject to them attaining a minimum number of references during the month – Districts = 100 mentions, Counties and Unitaries = 300) for this month are:
Now let’s take a look at some of the stories behind the buzz…
Twitter Hits MJ Headlines
It seems from the recent headlines in The MJ Magazine that some councils are struggling to realise the financial savings that the likes of Twitter and Facebook have to offer, and many are saying that they believe there are significant benefits but are unable to prove it.
Over 54% of the 67 local authorities questioned in a recent poll felt that using social media had improved customer satisfaction and 35% said it had reduced the number of telephone interactions and there are even indications that face to face avoidable contact has been improved.
Measuring the effectiveness of social media is tough especially with such new and evolving channels and we’re all still learning about the best ways to use them – but there is no denying it’s power and influence in shaping our future practice, Traditional evaluation methods just don’t work with social media , at least not in the short term. Measuring return on investment isn’t a simple equation but what is certain is that NOT doing social media has bigger consequences – so the important thing at this stage is to start investing and thinking about future-proofing customer access strategies.
Investment Under Scrutiny
Investing time, focus and money in social media is vital. Ensuring you understand the variety of media through which your customers communicate, becoming experts in the different conversations you can have with them and learning to interact with, not just respond to, your citizens- all are essential to the success of a social media strategy.
Many councils, however, are coming under criticism for spending time and money on social media. Take, for instance, the recent debate at West Sussex Council who invested £40,000 in setting up a YouTube channel, some of the content of which has been viewed as arbitrary and questions raised about the level of investment. Public reaction here has been centred around cost. It’s important to bear in mind that most users will see these channels as “free” and therefore do not see what the investment is based on. This doesn’t however mean the channel or the communication has no value – the nature of social media is that it can reach unknown audiences and in many respects the communication is untargeted. This makes evaluation of communications more important- are you reaching the right people in the right way? How do you know it’s working? It will take time for the real monetary benefits of using social media to manifest, in the meantime maybe it’s more important to satisfy ourselves that we are adapting to new channels, different ways of interacting and maximising the opportunities to reach out to citizens.
New Cities Announced
Three British towns were granted city status in March as part of the Queen’s Jubilee Celebration year. Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph were chosen from 22 applications to receive the honour. All three new city councils received a huge increase in social media activity on release of the announcement. The reaction to the news was generally positive, especially for St Asaph Council who allegedly only spent around £300 to complete their submission! We look forward to seeing if the new accolades have any bearing on the perception of these councils in the longer term !
Boris Learns A Lesson In Social Media
Boris Johnson has been a great advocate of Twitter and has used it as an effective communications tool for some time. Last month, however, he came a little unstuck when he took the @mayoroflLondon Twitter feed, along with it’s 200,000 followers and changed to a more personal @borisjohnson, and all around the time of the launch of his re-election campaign.
There are no rules about what you call yourself on Twitter and you are able to change the name of a Twitter feed, as long as the name isn’t already taken. But this caused a backlash, with many reacting that @mayorofLondon was about the role and not about Boris as an individual AND that Boris was taking advantage of the not insignificant level of “followership” to boost his campaign promotion audience figures. As soon as the outcry began the feeds were restored and Boris has now developed the @backboris2012 feed as the focus for telling everyone way he should keep his job
So, while Mr Johnson did nothing wrong per se, it was yet another high profile lesson learnt about social media identity and keeping conflicting interests separate in a particularly transparent medium.
Buzz and Media Mix
Next, this month’s total references to ‘Councils’ online which shows there has been another increase in activity – reinforcing that the increase trend in social media is continuing.
And this month’s Media Mix saw all media increase in activity and the return of “Forums” as the 3rd highest volume medium, overtaking Blogs.
Council Service Buzz
Finally, here’s a look at the top trending council services in March
Education was the top story feed this month, centred around the news that Kent County Council are to extend an existing Grammar School reigniting the old debate around selecting pupils based on academic ability.
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Monthly Buzz Index methodology – Details can be found here
About PublicServiceMonitor – PublicServiceMonitor trawls the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week, searching through news, blogs, forums and social media sites. It reads through all of this information and summarises what’s being said about UK councils, and can even tell you whether the sentiment is positive or negative (similar to the election worm we have seen at #leadersdebate). The service was launched in December 2009 so is still quite early on, but by measuring a benchmark group of councils on a consistent basis we hope to be able to provide some national trend information relating to what people are saying about their councils – and how they choose to say it.